Human chain unites protesters in Lebanon

Anti-government protesters form a human chain as a symbol of unity, during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government, on the Mediterranean waterfront promenade, in Beirut, on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 28 October 2019

Human chain unites protesters in Lebanon

  • Maronite Patriarch urges change, warning: ‘Our political system is democratic, not dictatorial’
  • Protesters are blocking roads and brought the country to a standstill

BEIRUT: Linking arms and waving flags, protesters in Lebanon formed a human chain on Sunday stretching from Akkar in the north of the country to the capital Beirut in the south amid continued protests at government inaction over the country’s spiralling economy. Demonstrators in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil and Jounieh opened roads to allow people to join the human chain or gather in city squares. Protest groups included families and children with the national flag drawn on their faces.
In Martyrs Square in the heart of Beirut, protesters have started selling water, coffee, tea and traditional food items, while others have set up a large tent where people gather to share their opinions and ideas.
The largely peaceful protests were interrupted by violent clashes on Saturday night that left seven people injured in Beddawi in Tripoli after the Lebanese army fired on protesters with rubber bullets.

FASTFACT

Protesters are demanding government resignations, including the controversial foreign minister and FPM leader Gebran Bassil, and also want Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to quit.

Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri ordered Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun to “conduct a swift investigation into the incident,” and promised to protect protesters on the third day of protests.
Meanwhile, two deputies, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Shamel Roukoz and leading businessman Neemat Frem, announced they would leave the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in the wake of the protests. The two MPs won their seats in the last parliamentary elections in 2018.

Ten years ago, before getting involved in public affairs, I warned of social collapse, but we could not avoid it and this is what exploded.

Neemat Frem A businessman

In a TV interview, Frem said: “Ten years ago, before getting involved in public affairs, I warned of social collapse, but we could not avoid it and this is what exploded.”
Roukoz tweeted on Oct. 24: “Do not ignore the root of the problem: There is no trust in authority today. Let this government leave immediately. The attempts to patch things up and revive it will not work. We need a government of reliable, trustworthy specialists.” His wife, Claudine, tweeted on the same day: “Early elections, better for today and tomorrow.”
Protesters are demanding government resignations, including the controversial foreign minister and FPM leader Gebran Bassil, and also want Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to quit.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi on Sunday warned against “dealing with peaceful protesters in a superior, reckless and politicized way.”
He supported the “formation of a new government in every respect, smaller and impartial, formed by accomplished and respected individuals who are experts and agreed upon beforehand to prevent a gap, in order to work on implementing the reform paper announced by the prime minister and accepted by protesters.”
Al-Rahi said: “Our political system in Lebanon is democratic, not dictatorial. The people are the source of authority and no one is canceling people, imposing their view or their will on the people. Do not ignore this national revolution so that it does not stray from its positive national path, because of the hired infiltrators vandalizing while wearing sheep’s clothes.”


Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Updated 7 min 52 sec ago

Pope appears to give thumbs down to Trump’s Middle East peace plan

  • Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari
  • The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan

BARI, Italy: Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” Francis said.
“Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises,” he said.
The participants included Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose jurisdiction includes Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
It was believed to be the first time the pope, who has often defended both Palestinian rights and Israel’s need for security, has spoken in public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Trump announced the plan on Jan. 28.
The plan would recognize Israel’s authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.
Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, underlined by the Palestinians’ absence from his White House announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
The Palestinians and Arab League foreign ministers have rejected the plan and the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel.
Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state, while Israel views the whole city its “united and eternal” capital.
The pope expressed concern in 2018 when the United States announced the moving of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying the city’s “status quo” should be respected. Francis has called for all to honor UN resolutions on the city.
“There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two,” Francis said, speaking in general about the Middle East.
Francis again warned against populist politicians who he said used “demagogic terms” such as “invasion” when talking of migration.
“To be sure, acceptance and a dignified integration are stages in a process that is not easy. Yet it is unthinkable that we can address the problem by putting up walls,” he said.